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A Chef's Ultimate Guide to Miami Restaurants

“I’m always on a quest to eat good food,” says Michael Schwartz, chef/owner of fantastic Miami restaurants like Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Harry’s Pizzeria. His flagship changes its menu daily and specializes in food cooked in a wood-burning oven, such as whole roasted local fish and chicken. “I always say that I spend more time sourcing than cooking, so I try to look for other people who do that, too.” Here, he shares his favorite spots, from the “Wizard of the Cuban Hamburger” to a Spanish newcomer with the right level of “fabulousness.”

Michael Schwartz’s Miami Restaurant Picks

Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Photo courtesy of Mandolin Aegean Bistro.

Crave-Worthy Seafood: Mandolin Aegean Bistro

“I look for quality, carefully sourced proteins, simply prepared, with lots of vegetables. I also like contrasts in temperatures, textures and colors. At Michael’s Genuine we do that and you can find that sort of food at this Mediterranean/Greek restaurant in the Design District. The octopus is fantastic, as are the grilled whole fish and Greek-inspired salads and dips like tzatziki.” mandolinmiami.com

The Bazaar by José Andrés
Photo courtesy of SLS Hotel South Beach.

Sexy Fine Dining: The Bazaar by José Andrés

“It’s new and pretty swanky. Philippe Starck did it, so it has a certain level of fabulousness. It’s comfortable and a little bit sexy and it could be romantic.” thebazaar.com

Working Breakfast: Soho Beach House

“I love to go to the Soho House for breakfast and sit in the lobby. I usually get work done while I’m there. It’s classic, but they do a very good job and everything you see and touch is of quality. I usually get a double espresso, and two soft-boiled eggs, cooked 4 1/2 minutes, depending on how big the egg is, with bacon or ham and fresh-cracked black pepper. The restaurant and lobby area are open to the public. They do a pretty big brunch as well.” sohobeachhouse.com

New Cafe: Acme Bakery & Coffee Co.

“Another good brunch option would be this new bakery. They also own a restaurant called The Federal, but at Acme they do breakfast all day. I love scones because they’re not too sweet. Somehow breakfast turned into dessert in this country, between muffins and French toast, pancakes and waffles with syrup.” myacmebakery.com

Best Coffee: Panther

“Miami’s coffee scene is really starting to pop. There’s one local roaster called Panther, in Wynwood. It’s run by a husband and wife, who are really passionate, close to the source. They know where their beans are coming from and make trips to South America to cultivate relationships with the growers. They have a great spot that’s funky and fantastic.” panthercoffee.com

Japanese Lunch: Pubbelly Sushi

“This place serves clean, good-quality fish, with interesting preparations. There’s one great roll that has snow crab and this ponzu butter that you dip it in. Then I usually eat sashimi, whatever they have fresh, and uni sushi at the end.” pubbellysushi.com

Cuban Lunch: Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop

“They’re open for breakfast and lunch, and on Friday they have the lechón special. It’s roast pork on this big, square plate and I swear it’s like 5 pounds. It’s $9 and comes with plantains and rice and beans and salad. With some extra hot sauce on top, you’re good, but you’d better be ready to take a nap afterward.”

TIKL Raw Bar & Grill
TIKL’s Simon Stojanovic; Photo courtesy of Altmare.

Restaurant to Watch: TIKL Raw Bar & Grill

“A guy who used to work with me named Simon Stojanovic (an F&W People’s Best New Chef Gulf Coast nominee) just opened this place. He was my sous-chef at Michael’s Genuine, and he’s doing some good work at TIKL. It’s getting a lot of buzz.” tiklrestaurant.com

Asian Fix: Gigi

“It’s a sit-down restaurant, but it’s fast, casual, funky. They do a short rib meatloaf that’s great. The food is good and it’s pretty inexpensive. giginow.com

El Mago de las Fritas
Photo © Gloria Verona.

Local Food Obsession: El Mago de las Fritas

“A frita is a Cuban burger that has ground chorizo in with the beef. It’s usually on a Cuban roll with shoestring potatoes on top. This place is known for the frita burger.” The restaurant’s name translates to the “Wizard of the Cuban Hamburger.” elmagodelasfritas.com

Budget Find: Sushi Deli

“It’s a Japanese grocery store that has a little café in it. It’s in the middle of this strip center that you would never really see on 79th Street. They do some really great, honest, not-tricked-out sushi. I love that place.” japanesemarketmiami.com

Healthy Stop: Jugofresh

“There’s a little place on South Beach that’s a juice bar. They have great juice combinations like cucumber, pineapple and ginger. Good quality. Nice decor.” jugofresh.com

Tropical Sorbet: The Frieze Ice Cream Factory

“My kids always like to go to The Frieze, an ice cream shop off Lincoln Road. It’s like South Beach’s longest running mom-and-pop operation. They make great mango sorbet, lychee and seasonal flavors like watermelon, as well as crazy ice cream.” That includes eight varieties of coffee alone, Latin-inspired flavors like dulce de leche, and “crunchy things” like Bumpy Road, a take on Rocky Road with chocolate chips and almonds. thefrieze.com

Michael Schwartz’s Miami Travel Tips

The Raleigh
Photo © Nikolas Koenig.

Hotel Pick: The Raleigh

“It’s terrific and charming and loved by locals, it really captures the essence of old Miami. It was just sold to sbe, the same people who did the SLS Hotel, and we’re going to be doing the new food and beverage programs there. We’re excited for an opportunity to work with them.” raleighhotel.com

Shopping Find: Stoneage Antiques

“While sourcing for a restaurant that we’re working on right now, we discovered this remarkable architectural salvage place near the Miami River. What caught my attention was some of the old nautical lighting that I think has a very distinct style, but could be really cool in a not-obviously nautical setting.” stoneage-antiques.com

Best Off-the-Beach Activity: Oleta River State Park

“I like being out on the water. You can rent a paddleboat or kayak at Oleta River State Park, which is not far from South Beach, on 163rd Street. Its location—between two highways, Biscayne Boulevard and Collins Avenue—sounds awful, but when you get there you feel like you could be in any state park. That’s a great place.” floridastateparks.org

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